About 180 Indiana State Police personnel helped out officers in Biloxi, Miss., following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
On Tuesday, officers from the coastal city came north to repay the favor.
The Biloxi Police Department gave ISP a check for more than $9,000 as a gesture of its appreciation of the six weeks that ISP helped out in 2005.
Biloxi police officers raised $9,491.83 after some of its officers became aware that several ISP troopers’ homes were destroyed during the tornado that struck Southern Indiana earlier this year. The money was handed over to the ISP Alliance on Tuesday and will be distributed to the four troopers.
Five days after Katrina hit Biloxi, 180 Indiana troopers responded in three waves of 60 troopers. Each unit spent two weeks in the city conducting typical police work with the city’s officers. Biloxi Police Lt. Bruce Johnson said officers from his department saw the tornado devastation to the homes of the four ISP troopers’ homes as an opportunity to repay the goodwill provided by ISP 2005.
Johnson said the officers took it upon themselves to raise the funds.
“This is a grass-roots thing, this wasn’t the city. The city helped us, but this started with two officers,” Johnson said.
HOW THEY HELPED
The presence of ISP troopers not only provided needed additional law enforcement, but it also allowed the Biloxi officers to take time off to rest from what had become extended work shifts.
“When the troopers and other agencies showed up, you just don’t know how good it was,” Johnson said.
He said the severity of the destruction caused by Katrina — which killed more than 1,800 — shook the entire city of Biloxi.
“Having not been there, you would not understand the devastation. I have been through hurricanes. I have been through tornadoes, but nothing to that effect,” Johnson said. “The city lost 25,000 buildings. The city lost 144 vehicles. We had 56 confirmed casualties, and I believe the number is probably higher.”
After learning of the ISP troopers who lost their homes in the tornado, Johnson said officers opened up a bank account and began organizing fundraisers, including several red beans and rice dinners. Johnson said with the community’s support, the department raised more than $3,200 in less than six hours during one of the dinner fundraisers.
“People were coming up and dropping $500 in. They said, ‘I remember when Indiana was down here and they did this and they did that.’ Everybody remembered,” Johnson said. “It really does makes you feel good about your city when they remember people helping them and they are willing to help out.”
Johnson said the assistance of ISP troopers not only effected him professionally, but his also his family.
“My brother-in-law, his boat got stolen, and two Indiana troopers caught the guy,” Johnson said. “Everybody has a story that relates to Indiana.”
Johnson said a photograph hangs at the Biloxi Police Department of an ISP patrol car out of respect and appreciation of the Indiana lawmen.
He said even the city’s Applebee’s restaurant has a law enforcement collage, and the largest photograph is of the first wave of troopers, including those from Indiana.
Johnson said the Indiana troopers endured uncomfortable living conditions while lending a hand to the people of Biloxi.
“They slept in third-world conditions — in the parking lot of a mall that had been devastated in tents, with generators, in their cars because we had no place to put them. All the hotels were destroyed,” he said.
Johnson added that the quality of police work was remarkably better than what was provided by other agencies.
“We had a lot of people that came down with good intentions, but just were not up to the task, and they [ISP] were,” he said. “They road with us. They made arrests. They drove by themselves. It worked out really well.”